The first new Volvo cars to be created in Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group will be the replacements for the S40 sedan and V40 wagon.
The cars, which are produced in Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s NedCar plant in the Netherlands, are expected to be introduced around the 2004 calendar year.
Hans-Olov Olsson, president of Volvo Cars of North America Inc., said Volvo is starting to work out the details for the 40-series replacement. 'There is a mutual understanding between Volvo, Mitsubishi and Ford that we will maintain our relationship with Mitsubishi one way or another,' he said.
Asked if that meant Mitsu-bishi will continue to engineer and assemble a car for Volvo, Olsson said, 'I don't know; that is pure speculation.'
Development of future NedCar products could be led by Ford or by Mitsubishi, he said. 'We are now in the process of sorting things out, (such as) component sharing between the three parties.'
However, Olsson said platform sharing with non-Volvo products may not be an option when future products are developed. He cited criticism of Volkswagen AG's reliance on a limited number of platforms for many of its brands.
'It made sense in the very beginning because (VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech) was very convincing that they would save a lot of money in product costs. But today in the marketplace, it seems that the customer - if you take Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen, Audi and so on - is confused. Is it a Skoda or is it a Seat?'
Olsson said that as new products are developed, perception is important: The customer clearly must see the differences between a Jaguar product and a Volvo, for example.
Olsson said all product development and engineering will continue to be handled within Volvo, though ideas will be shared and feedback will be sought from the Premier Automotive Group. The group includes Volvo, Jaguar, Lincoln and Aston Martin.
Olsson said the automaker will do whatever it takes to protect its reputation as a leader in automotive safety, especially as competing vehicles improve crash protection and begin to edge into Volvo's territory.
In addition, Olsson said the automaker will emphasize interior and exterior styling when models are replaced, in an effort to make its products more appealing to a wider range of customers. Over the next five years, the product range will likely tilt more in favor of wagons and less toward sedans.